Gil de Ferran, winner Moderator: We'll go ahead and get started today here with our press conference of your Gateway Indy 250 winner today, Gil de Ferran. To his right is team owner Roger Penske, and team manager Tim Cindric to his left. Gil, a...
Gil de Ferran, winner
Moderator: We'll go ahead and get started today here with our press conference of your Gateway Indy 250 winner today, Gil de Ferran. To his right is team owner Roger Penske, and team manager Tim Cindric to his left. Gil, a great win for you. A hard-fought win. This had to be a battle when the green flag dropped. It had to be hard for you all day long. Tell us about the entire run, give us a quick overview of what happened from the very beginning from the pole until the final checkered flag fell.
Gil de Ferran: I tell you, it was a tough race. It was probably one of the hardest races certainly I have driven. My car was very good in the first stint. I was really able to push hard and open up a decent gap. We were getting a little bit loose at the end of the stint, but overall the car was really staying more consistent than everybody else's car. I noted that on the first stint already. Everybody else was able to stay with me and attack me early in the race, but then as the tank went down and all that, I relatively speaking became stronger. Obviously, I kept that in mind. The middle two stints, I was struggling a little bit. Helio went by me one of those restarts. I was able to get by him in traffic. Then we went yellow, then he got by me in the pits. It went backwards and forwards. Barron was very strong at one point in the race, I mean unbelievably fast. He just went by me like I was stopped. I mean, I tried to fight him for a couple laps. I said, 'You know what, he's way too fast.' I kind of let him go. You don't want to race too much there. Then in the end of the race, I mean, certainly he had the lead. He went by Helio on one of the restarts. Later Helio and I were running one and two. I have to give it to Helio, he was really standing on the gas. We were at qualifying pace all the time throughout the last stint. But in the last stint, my car was very good again, much better than it had been the previous two stints, more it was like on the first stint. He was able to pull away a little bit when I got caught up in traffic and stuff. He was really pushing hard. But my car, again, became faster, and I think his car became a little bit slower. So I started catching up, especially in traffic. I saw an opportunity there in the middle of Turn 3 or 4. He got stuck there behind a guy. The guy wasn't giving him either the inside or the outside, so he had to get out of the throttle. I thought, 'You know what? I'm going.' I went around. Front end stuck. I was able to squeeze between him and the back marker here. That was it. From there, I thought I was handling it a little bit better than he was. Those last two laps, I was able to get by traffic better I think than he was. There was no problem there in those last 10 laps or so. But it was a little bit hard, this race, as I ever done. I mean, the pace was unbelievably hard. It was a tough one, let's put it this way, especially the heat and all that.
Moderator: Mr. Penske, he makes it sound difficult, hard. I think you felt like Gil had it in the bag from the beginning. I know of course that's not the situation. Your two drivers have done you a great job.
Roger Penske: That's what he gets the big bucks for, right? Really, he had talked about at the beginning that his car was a little bit free, a little oversteer. We made an adjustment during the two stints, in between. We put the car back where it was on the last one, which we knew was the best. That made a difference. Plus when Barron went by, we were running on fuel conserve because we wanted to have a short stop to be able to get ahead if we had to. That's what Helio did, short fuel. I think that got us out of the pits. Overall, my concern was lapping the traffic and making a mistake. You know, the points chase is so tight, you have to think about racing. Tim and I were talking. It certainly wasn't like Ferrari where our guys were following the leader. I think you could see it was best man for himself going down the inside on the restart. I think that's the way it should be because if you would have looked at it another way, Helio should have won, because he was already in the lead and would have had an extra 10 points. I think with them both running hard, we end up with a better result.
Moderator: With these two drivers so close in this points championship, we saw earlier in the year at different times you played different pit strategy. Now you're running for a championship for both teams. Does your strategy for those two cars change with only two events to go?
Tim Cindric: To be honest, we don't discuss a lot about what Roger is doing with Gil, what I am doing with Helio. You do what you think is best in that situation. Prior to a yellow, we'll talk about what we're doing. It's not as much, 'You do one thing and I'll do another.' There's no secrets.
Moderator: I think I have it straight. Roger calls the shots as far as pit strategy.
Moderator: And you're taking care of the strategy for the other.
Moderator: I though that was the way it was, but I never had a chance to ask.
Cindric: We compete like everybody else. At the end of the day, as long as one of these guys brings it home, that's the end of the day. We're competitive, we have fun it, but there's no secret. It's an open book across the board. To answer your question, you do what you think is best for you during the race.
Penske: We'll know when each other is coming. We knew we were coming in two laps before they were. When we were leading, you didn't get the fuel mileage. In fact, we'd get probably, you know, 3 or 4 percent better if you were following. That's one of the things we did there for a while. That gave him an advantage. One thing that Gil did today, probably maybe didn't see it, his in lap and out laps were just terrific. Coming out on the green and getting out, those are real critical. You could see we really pulled quite a bit away. That was a critical part. Even though Helio had run two laps longer, we got out and had a real good in-and-out lap.
Cindric: Those are decisions coming down pit lane. On the last pit stop, we decided to short fuel by a few gallons to get out front again. You make those decisions on the fly. It works out, then you let them sort it out on the racetrack, which is what they did.
Moderator: We'll open it up for questions.
Q: What's going to happen the next two races with the three of you battling hard for the championship, including Sam Hornish? Mr. Penske?
Penske: Obviously, you know, Sam has done a terrific job. We have not been as fast on the big tracks. We're going to do a test, in fact, to try and determine, the 02 engine, 01 engine is bigger on the bigger tracks. For some reason, we seem not to be able to sustain some of the speed as the other cars. That's one thing we haven't been able to figure out since we went to Texas the first time. I'd say there's three, four, five cars that have shown ... Giaffone, Sam, Buddy Rice, Scheckter, I guess, won't be there. There have been some cars running pretty quick. We need those cars to run and maybe take points away. Our key for the next two races is reliability and not getting in trouble. That hurt Gil, the accident with Richie Hearn last week, of course. You know, you drop 25 or 30 points like that, that's a huge hit.
Moderator: Gil, your forecast for the next two races?
de Ferran: I second everything that Roger said. I mean, certainly, like he said, we just haven't been able to figure out those bigger tracks. We can race hard, but we don't ... we can't seem to keep the pace to lead the race and perhaps go for the big wins. You know, Helio is testing in Chicago in a few days, and hopefully we'll learn a few things over there. I'm very happy that I won today. It was a great day. It was a really gratifying race to win, as well, since it was hardly fought. However, I'm under no illusions. We still have to keep our heads down here. I mean, the championship is open to anyone. We've really got to stay on course, keep my head on my shoulders here and try to score good points in the last two races. Like Roger said, the good thing about going into those last two races, a few guys have been running very well on this type of track and not really in the championship race. That will be a plus.
Moderator: Last question was in regard to Gil's championship run in 2000 going into the final event in California.
Q: Roger, in all your years in motorsports, have you ever been in a championship at this point that has been more competitive?
Penske: I would say that we talked about it, there's no question it reminds me of the days when the guy that ran Trenton and Langhorne, 10ths of a second, unload. This is oval racing. Road racing is a compromise right and left. You have a lot of street circuits, follow the leader. If you have a good car, you can pass. You have the pit strategy, the way they put the lap cars back around, I think the rules are right. We can run a lot of fuel. We're not limited on the amount of fuel. We're really limited how long we can run. You have strategy that takes place. I'd say today it's a lot of fun to race in this series.
Q: Gil, your teammate asked us to make sure we ask you about your vacation and how important it was. Now you say that he's going to go up and test for a couple days. Sounds like you have a couple more days vacation stored up. What kind of vacation plan do you have?
de Ferran: No, it's very, very nice. It was last opportunity we had since the kids are back in school Monday. I'm sure a lot of you can relate to that, school tomorrow. You know, it's a good opportunity to go there, see some family over in France. I went to see my cousin. He's got kids. It's like a big-kid sort of family, messy, noisy, this sort of stuff. It's really good (laughter).